Worried motorists made emergency calls to North Yorkshire Police when they saw a Land Rover Freelander heading south on a motorway's northbound carriageway, a court heard yesterday.

Magistrates heard that the Freelander, driven by Philip McAteer of West View Farm, Cockfield, Bishop Auckland, in County Durham, was first spotted on the A1 at Sinderby, near Thirsk at 3.05am on May 10, with the next sighting a couple of miles away at Baldersby.

"There, a motorist tried to over-take the vehicle in front of him to be confronted by McAteer, 33, heading in his direction at between 40 and 50 mph.

"Ten minutes later a police traffic patrol picked up the Freelander at Dishforth, where the road becomes a three-lane motorway and followed it, Harrogate magistrates were told."

McAteer ignored the police car's flashing blue lights and headlights as it used the third lane of the ''wrong'' carriageway and it was not until he reached Allerton Park, near Knaresborough, that he stopped.

McAteer, who at the time had been living in High Street, in Aycliffe village, County Durham, told officers - who estimated he had travelled 11.74 miles on the wrong carriageway - he was '' really sorry.'' A breath test revealed he had drunk one and a half times the legal alcohol limit.

When McAteer pleaded guilty to dangerous driving, drink-driving and failing to answer bail a charge of failing to stop for police was dropped.

McAteer's solicitor Richard Reed said only the drink had been an aggravating factor. McAteer had been driving steadily, not racing, and the road had been quiet.

Court chairman Jane Garlick ordered probation reports to be prepared on McAteer and Mr Reed said he would commission a psychiatric report.

He was bailed to return for sentence on September 16 and banned from driving in the meantime.